Why The Saga of the Cerulean Universe?

•July 30, 2020 • Leave a Comment

My first two novels, Wendall’s Lullaby and Delphys Rising, were conspiracy/technothrillers with some environmental undertones. So why did I decide to jump genres and embark on the journey of writing a multi-book science fiction saga? And why, specifically, The Saga of the Cerulean Universe?

Well, part of my reason comes from the first two books. After publishing Delphys Rising I knew that wasn’t the last I was going to hear from some of the characters I’d developed. I knew there were more issues in their lives and in the world I’d created that I wanted to explore and expand. So, immediately after publishing Delphys Rising I sat and brainstormed for a few days–jotting ideas in my journal, on scraps of paper and on a legal pad.

whale and wormholeFor some reason, one line of plot ideas had me thinking about the possibility (or impossibility) of transporting dolphins and whales into space. After doing a little research on the limited lifting capacity of rockets, the potential for moving large quantities of water and the impact of gravitational forces on dolphins (who essentially live in zero gravity) that storyline died–at least until I decided to take the idea much further into the realm of science fiction.

Two silhouettes father - son

While my first two books were thrillers (and I do read a fair number of thrillers), I’ve always been a huge fan of science fiction. My dad introduced me to Edgar Rice Burroughs and H.G. Wells at an early age–a nice contrast to the reruns of the original Star Trek and the cartoon serial Star Blazers that I also absorbed in my youth. I also devoured the works of Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury and others. And, while Delphys Rising definitely has some science fiction elements and I’ve written a few short stories in the genre,  I always pictured myself writing career continuing to evolve in that direction.

Consequently, my brainstorming led me to ruminate on the following question: what if, instead of the vacuum of space, there existed an alternate universe where the “space” between planets, solar systems and other cosmic entities was filled with water? A cerulean universe awash in a celestial ocean?

front cover KINDLEI was intrigued and excited by the idea and eight months after starting seriously attacking the project, book one–Piercing the Celestial Ocean–was published. Now, I’m working hard on getting book two in The Saga of the Cerulean Universe completed and published before the end of the year.

Stay tuned for updates on my progress writing and editing Beyond the Pale Blue Sun.dwarf star in a star field

 

i lost MY truth

•July 27, 2020 • Leave a Comment

Bright Sun against dark starry sky in Solar System, elements of this image furnished by NASA

i lost MY truth

 

Solar flare.

Coronal mass ejection.

Earth awash

electromagnetic deluge.

And just like that,

my history is gone,

my truth is gone.

Everything I believed,

all that gave me comfort

in an uncomfortable world,

disconnected

and disappeared.

Digital memory,

digital belonging,

lost.

Screens blank,

Mind blank.

emp

I think a lot about the current state of the world–especially here in the United States. I think about the shouts of “fake news” and “alternative facts” and sigh over how divisive we’ve become–how insular our opinions have become.

The internet has connected the people of the world in some marvelous ways. I chat about writing with people from Illinois to India and from Scotland to Germany. But I can’t help but note how it’s also allowed people to isolate themselves–to isolate their opinions.

Differences of opinion, people who look or act or believe different things can be discomforting to some–to many. The panacea seems to be seek comfort in the reinforcement of our own beliefs–finding a niche that supports our point of view or lifestyle and increasingly existing only within that space. Excluding the other. The internet has certainly made this easier for people–to find websites, institutions, podcasts, groups or individuals that support a narrow but reassuring worldview.

I’m usually not one for looking backwards–for pining for a “simpler time”–but the other day I was trying to imagine (as fiction writers often do) how (or if) humanity could ever get to a place where facts were facts and a level of respect was given experts in a field–where the divisiveness of insular surety disappeared. In the course of that thinking, I started jotting down the phrases that became the above poem–a lament for the loss of a truth held in the comfort of someone’s digital world.

I don’t think truth (or fact) is to be found in isolation or comfort. Truth-seeking is a messy, uncomfortable business. My tact up to this point has been to encourage people to reach out and listen–to seek out opinions from media sources, individuals or groups that may make them uneasy. I especially encourage getting to know individuals and the nuances of their beliefs–which rarely fit into neat, stereotypical categories.

But, I see that plea being ignored or drowned out by those who are a part of the Great American Shout-down. So, maybe the world needs a more radical approach–or an act of nature–to elicit the needed change–the needed opening of minds. That’s what prompted this poem–i lost MY truth.

BALANCE: A Creative’s Challenge

•July 19, 2020 • Leave a Comment

I shun father and mother and wife and brother when my genius calls me. I would write on the lintels of the door-post, Whim. I hope that it is somewhat better than whim at last, but cannot spend the day in explanation.

self relianceIn his essay, Self-Reliance, Ralph Waldo Emerson, extols the virtue of dropping everything and ignoring everyone when he is feeling the flow of his creativity–the siren call of his genius. Such is the “high” most creatives get when fleeting ideas, words, images or musical notes take form–solidifying in their reality.

That feeling is hard to set aside for any creative person. Yet, the realitiesworkout of life, mean that it must happen. Today, I wanted nothing more than to dive into work on the second book in my new science fiction series. The Saga of the Cerulean Universe cannot wait! But, I also knew that if I didn’t get in some kind of workout this morning that I would not be quite right in the head all day–such is also my commitment to fitness. On top of that, I also need to take care of my financial realities. I’m not making enough money off of my books and nasm and notepadwriting (yet) to do it full-time–I still need to pay the bills. So, today I also have to set aside a portion of my quiet, alone, at-home time to do some Endeavor Racing administrative work and to study for my personal trainer certification.

Consequently, I create a schedule for my day–parceling out the hours to write, to do my bookkeeping and to study. Still, when I get to my allotted writing time, there is a risk. I’m very excited to work on my follow-up to Piercing the Celestial Ocean–and ideas and writing seem to have been exploding from my mind in past sessions. The risk is that I’ll get so caught up in what I’m doing that I “decide” to keep writing and ignore the other tasks on my list.front cover KINDLE

Hence the creative’s dilemma–when do I embrace Emerson’s whim and when do I stop  to move on to another scheduled task? It’s never easy to evaluate in that moment–to step out of the flow, stand on the shore and weigh the costs and benefits. Sometimes, if a marvelous idea is just in its infancy, I can get away with jotting some quick notes–without fully developing the thought and then jump to the next item on my list. Other times, I just need to keep going–the idea has already crystalized into words, sentences, paragraphs and pages–and I must write until my mind is emptied.

The real challenge for me is to make sure that on the days where the writing is not flowing that I do not try to force it by extending my time. On those days, I need to make sure I’m doing the other work on my list—my workouts, accounting, marketing, studying. If I can do that well, I’ll be able to allow myself a little more leeway when a writing session turns into a creative torrent.

 

WORLD-BUILDING: The LupiMare

•July 12, 2020 • Leave a Comment

front cover KINDLEThe majority of the story in my newest novel, Piercing the Celestial Ocean, takes place on the planet M’aremundi. It’s a world dominated by water–with roughly ten percent of the surface covered by land. It’s a world of island and island-chain (archipelago) nations. Because of this, the militaries of these states are dominated by navies.

Most of these navies have some type of special operations forces–commandos. The dominant archipelago in this first novel in The Saga of the Cerulean Universe is P’nesia and their elite commando units are know as the LupiMare–“sea wolves.” They are very similar to U.S. Navy SEALs except in one aspect–they do not participate in any “air operations.” In fact, none of M’aremundi’s island nations have anything remotely resembling aircraft on a technological par with their surface and submarine ships. Why?

Well, I won’t tell just yet. That’s something for you to discover while reading Piercing the Celestial Ocean or for one of my future blog posts. And once your done reading book one, you can speculate on how the LupiMare might fare in the new paradigm of book two–Beyond the Pale Blue Sun.

Pre-order Sale of My New Book!

•June 17, 2020 • Leave a Comment

Piercing the Celestial Ocean is the first book in my new science fiction/space opera series–The Saga of the Cerulean Universe–and the Kindle edition is now available for pre-order at a special low price of just 99 cents. If you are interested, I hope you’ll take advantage of the sale and leave a review once you’ve finished reading.

PTCO twitter pre order slide

AN EPIC TALE, A CLASH OF TWO UNIVERSES

Disgraced scientist, Captain Anton Ekels, seizes the opportunity for redemption he recognizes in the Endeavor’s near-collision with an alien stasis pod. Expelled from the mouth of a remote wormhole, the capsule—once taken onboard the deep space research vessel–reveals clues that the captain believes may link its female humanoid occupant to an alternate reality. A student of Earth’s space exploration history, Ekels quickly recognizes a plaque similar to that attached to the twentieth century’s Pioneer space probes–but the universe described is potentially unlike anything ever encountered by the Intragalactic Science Consortium.

 

SIX-HUNDRED YEARS EARLIER

ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WORMHOLE

Grand Master G’lea and her assistant, Master T’reau, aim their innovative celestiscope skyward and make a heretical discovery. Suppressed and warped by influential P’nesian Clerics, this startling revelation further secures the dominance of the Grand Conclave, enhances the mystery of the Heavenly Visitors and seals the fate of G’lea and T’reau.

Despite the best efforts of the Grand Conclave the legend of the Grand Master and her assistant lives on in hand-copied, forbidden books, the furtive whisperings of radical academics and the tall tales of drunken sailors on the island of Lolus.

Hundreds of years later, on this oft-denigrated island, unique circumstances unite a sea captain raised on those whispered tall tales with the estranged son of the powerful P’nesian Archcleric. Aboard the Vagus, A’zra and G’regor begin an adventure that not only challenges entrenched religious beliefs, but eventually inspires a much greater scientific leap—towards the Celestial Ocean and beyond.

 

PIERCING THE CELESTIAL OCEAN

THE SAGA OF THE CERULEAN UNIVERSE BEGINS

Counting the Stars with Dad

•June 14, 2020 • Leave a Comment

Every year at this time (early June–between his birthday and Father’s Day), I like to republish this essay as an homage to my father.

Man looking up towards the Milky Way. Eyre Peninsula. South Australia.

The last licks of orange glow on the horizon signaled nature’s transition from day to night. Sitting on a deserted beach, on an isolated key, deep in the Everglades National Park backcountry, I watched the heavens as the stars began to appear one-by-one. Eyes darting frantically, I tried to count each star as it appeared. When stars began to emerge by the hundreds, I was quickly overwhelmed. Closing my eyes, I lay slowly on my back. After a brief visual break, I opened my eyes and tried to absorb the vastness from horizon to horizon. Usually, what floods my mind in these contemplative situations are big thoughts about my place in the world or reflections on how insignificant our tiny planet is in the cosmic scheme of things. But, what dominated my current introspection were not wispy glimpses of answers to life’s eternal questions, but clear visions of camping with my father.

Like so many young families in the early 1960s, mine had started camping as an inexpensive vacation-my mom and dad encouraged and outfitted by dad’s already camping co-workers. At one and a half years old, I was dragged along for all the fun. As the story goes, the first trip was a miraculous success-though it rained most of the two weeks and I’m told I spent most of my time in the tent in a highchair. It couldn’t have been all that bad; the Koelsch’s began a yearly ritual akin to migration that brought us to that same Lake George, New York campground each summer for nearly ten years. There
I caught my first fish (a “sunny” on a bamboo pole that we cooked in a metal Band-Aid box), paddled my first canoe (a beater of a Grumman the livery guy tried to blame dad for denting), and went on my first hike (a ranger-led scramble to the precipice of Roger’s Rock). Lake George was full of memories of the beginning of my love affair with the outdoors.

But, this evening, lying back on the sand on Pavillion Key, relaxing from a day’s kayaking, I recalled a very specific camping image of my father. Mind you, it was family-style tent camping we did at Lake George-three burner Coleman stove, big coolers, cotton sleeping bags with animal print interiors, mattresses that took half an hour to blow up, and a canvas tent that took an hour to erect once you figured out which pole went where. The drive-in campsite had the typical “Fred loves Wendy”-carved picnic table and slightly crooked grill-covered stone fireplace. It’s really just the fireplace that is important to this memory. That’s where dad would sit in a lounge chair and tend the campfire after his family was safely tucked in the tent. Several hours later I would half-hear that familiar tent zipper sound and dad would crawl in next to mom. Always being the curious type, the following morning I would ask dad what he did after we all went to bed. “Trying to count the stars,” he would say.

Two silhouettes father - son

Dad’s sitting out at night wasn’t just an occasional occurrence. It was something he would do almost every night they weren’t playing cards or socializing with other campground acquaintances. And, each morning, following my question, he would answer with the same, what some people would describe as child-like, enthusiasm: “Trying to count the stars.” Sometimes he would tell me how many he counted that evening-but, the number never really seemed to matter as much as the actual counting. The quest was not for ever truly quantifying the heavens, the quest was the unrestrained joy he found in the trying. It was his continual enthusiasm and sense of wonder that
drenched my brain on that clear night in the Everglades. And, at that moment in my memory, I felt closer to my father than I would have if he were sitting on the beach next to me.

Indian Guide HandbookBeyond our Lake George days, we spent outdoor time together through our participation in the YMCA Indian Guides program. Each of the father-son “journeys” we shared was permeated by dad’s National Geographic Magazine sense of adventure. He skillfully applied his excitement and fed my imagination in ways that made each trip even more rewarding. There was the father-son canoe trip on the Wading River in New Jersey’s Pine Barrens-where an hour of no contact with other canoes and a small “search” plane overhead added a certain “edge” to our trip. And, there was that frigid winter night hike in the Poconos that revealed several well-formed bear prints in the snow’s icy crust. We had photos from some of those trips in a box somewhere, but lying there looking at the night sky I realized that the memories and feelings I cherished the most were not captured on film. They were captured in my heart and reflected in the stars.

Those stars brought me a real gift that evening-a renewed closeness to my father and an understanding of why I could love the outdoors so much. Still lying on the beach, I broke into a appreciative smile and again began to count.

NOTE: this essay originally appeared in Canoe & Kayak Magazine.

Sure, I’ll Play Along…

•January 15, 2020 • 1 Comment

Communication support, call center and customer service help desk.…when you call and your alarming, automated message claims that my father’s Social Security number has been compromised, is being used fraudulently and that he is in danger of being prosecuted.

“Press One?” Sure.

“This is [put name here] from the Social Security Administration.”

“Oh. How do I know that you are really from the Social Security Administration?”

First Time Response: “Well sir, you called us.”

My Response: “No. You called me.”

Click. Hang up.

Less than ten minutes later I get the exact same automated message.

“Press One?” Sure, I’ll play again.

“This is [put name here] from the Social Security Administration.”

“Oh. How do I know that you are really from the Social Security Administration?”

Second Time Response: Dead air. No response.

Click. Hang up.

Senior Woman Talking On PhoneObviously, these calls ARE NOT coming from the Social Security Administration. I can only think these people are trying to particularly prey on those with particular concerns about Social Security benefits (the disabled and the elderly) and those with some kind of cognitive impairment (again the disabled and the elderly with dementia/Alzheimer’s Disease). They call repetitively (daily and often many times a day) and use scare tactics to lure people into a conversation that reveals not only their Social Security number but other personal information (birthdate, full name, phone number and even credit card numbers).

The next time I get to intercept and answer one of these calls, I’m going to play along aSocial Security Cards Symbolizing Benefits for Elderly United Stated little more, see how much more information I can get and ultimately try to record these scammers. I know I have no way of catching these &%$#@ bastards, but I hope that what I learn can help people who may be receiving these calls or the children of people who might be receiving these calls. These phone scammers deserve to go to jail, but preying on the disabled or the elderly never seems to place high on any politician’s list of things to do–even here in Florida.

***

For most of the past week and a half I’ve been staying with my father as I help him through resolving some medical issues. He has moderate (but progressing dementia) that has allowed him to live independently up until this time. But that cognitive impairment (as I’ve written about previously in this blog) has made him easy prey for phone scammers.

Conceptual hand writing showing Senior Scam. Business photo showcasing fraud schemes targeting the lifestyle and savings of the elderly Writing tools and scribbled paper on top of the wooden table.Because of that, we purchased him a British-made cell phone that allows us to program in a “white list” of numbers. Only numbers on that list can call into his cell phone–essentially blocking all scammers on that device.

Unfortunately, the senior complex in which he lives also has landline phones in each apartment and that is where he still receives deceptively crafted scam calls. Apparently, there is no way to do that on the complex’s antiquated phone system. I’d love to see if there is an upgrade (software or hardware) out there that they could install to better protect their very vulnerable residents.

In addition to calls from the “SSA,” he has received calls from “Medicare” and “Microsoft.”

When I answered the call from “Medicare” the telemarketer became combative after I questioned his credentials. He hung up when I persisted, but I’m quite certain they are calling from a company trying to smooth talk seniors to use Medicare benefits to purchase medical equipment (walkers, oxygen, canes, wheelchairs, etc) they must need at no cost them.

I haven’t tried to engage the “Microsoft” robocall yet, but the next time I hear that computer-generated voice, I’ll press the appropriate button and get it on.

Until then, I just want to share my warning: find out who is calling your disabled friends/family and/or your elderly parents. Get some questionable answers? Get complaints of the phone ringing all day? See some unfamiliar names, phone numbers, notes or dollar amounts scribbled on a notepad by the phone?

If you see anything like that you need to take action to protect your loved ones. You need to spend a day answering calls yourself. If numbers can be blocked–do it–even though many scammers are generating random, non-repeating phone numbers. You also need to do something a little more difficult and intrusive—get a look at their checkbooks, bank accounts and credit card statements. Look for anything that would be out of the ordinary for them. If you see anomalies, try to dispute the charges–but most of all, talk to your siblings, your elderly parents and come up with a plan to protect them yourselves.

In the end, to protect my own father, I’ve had to use my Power of Attorney rights to take control and possession of his checkbook and his credit cards. Without a way to completely block scam calls (and similarly insidious junk mail) it was all I could do to protect the savings and investments he worked a lifetime to earn.

Remember, in the end only you can protect your family from scammers. Act now!

###

I’m Always Writing

•October 22, 2019 • Leave a Comment

white board poemAfter three weeks of fighting off an upper respiratory infection, I’m finally getting back (slowly) to my morning workouts. Now, there are times when I get so absorbed in the effort or flow of a workout that my mind is fully engaged in the activity itself. And there are other times when the rhythm of paddling or running or biking sets my mind free.

In those moments I struggle to remember my thoughts. On my mountain bike rides, I almost always carry a notebook. But while running or paddling, often all I have is my phone or my memory. If I don’t want to stop and record the words on my phone, the thought becomes a mantra–repeated for the entire workout until I can finally put it to paper.

This morning’s workout was in my garage gym–a circuit workout mixing intervals on the white board workoutConcept2 Rowing Ergometer with some basic exercises.  My goal was to start increasing the intensity of my workouts after only doing some very low-impact exercises over the last week. I was generally successful–getting through three rounds of the planned workout. The fourth round omitted the rowing machine.

My morning goal didn’t include writing a short poem–but those words came during the workout and I jotted them down on the whiteboard.

I saw the world anew

Point of view

Change

in perspective

Fresh insight

Morning light.

#   #   #

 

Knock. Knock. Knock.

•September 17, 2019 • 2 Comments

knock knock knockThree solid, slow, confident raps penetrated the cocoon of white noise created by the air conditioning and the dense foam of my earplugs. I sat up. The front door? 

Looking at the clock–12:30am–I shook my head and started to settle my head back down. But my mind didn’t stop. What if it was someone trying to get in touch with me about my elderly father? What if I had missed a phone call and he needed me?

I pulled out my earplugs and swung my legs over the side of the bed. After putting on my glasses, I walked to the door–expecting a repeat of the three knocks. Nothing.

The cats were nonplussed–seemingly undisturbed by my atypical nocturnal wanderings or a rap on the door. Honestly, they were nowhere to be seen.

At the front door I stood on my tiptoes–peaking through the high window like I do when trying to evaluate overzealous solicitors. Nothing. Sidestepping to the bigger kitchen windows I looked again. Nothing. A lot of still, lifelessness woefully under-illuminated by the flickering and anemic streetlight. Emptiness.

I padded across the cool terrazzo to the catio door. The screened lanai was empty–bathed in the dim glow of white nightlights. From my office window I could look at most of the back yard without disturbing my wife. So again I walked quietly through the house and peeked through the blinds. Nothing.

Satisfied, I went back to bed and pulled up the covers. Earplugs in hand I listened–mostly to the elevated thumping of my heart. Eventually my pulse settled enough to allow the white noise back into my head. Calmer. I replaced my earplugs and slowly nodded off.

My wife woke before me and was out the door to workout and work before my alarm sounded. I pulled the covers over my face. Something about the confidence of those knocks stuck with me. Solid. Perfectly timed. Three. With those thoughts repeating I languished in half-sleep.

“There’s this girl that’s been on my mind
All the time, Su-Su-Sussudio oh oh…”

I couldn’t whack the clock radio fast or hard enough. Ears aching and heart racing, my mind was distracted–ruminating over why Phil Collins solidly held the top two slots on my list of Worst Songs to Wake Up To. It was enough of an inner dialogue (with Phil repeatedly singing the background music) to temporarily forget about the three knocks and get on with my day.

* **

That evening as I sat in bed reading, I thought about the knocks again–and about mentioning them to my wife. But I didn’t.

Typically,  after she closes her book and her eyes, I’ll put in my earplugs and keep reading. But, this evening I wanted to be more aware–I left my earplugs in my eyeglass case on the nightstand and tried to focus on my book.

My sleep was fitful and when my wife arose early to head to the gym, I again stayed in bed. She closed the bedroom door and I eventually dozed off into a deeper sleep.

Knock. Knock. Knock.

I didn’t bolt upright. I couldn’t–stuck in a slumbering mind-fog. But, I heard the knocks–hadn’t I? I wiped the drool from my mouth, propped myself up and listened–nothing. Had my previous night’s obsession manifested itself in a dream?

Looking at the clock–5:05 a.m.–and realizing I’d managed to get another good hour of sleep, I dragged my body out of bed and started to make the rounds. It was still dark, but there was just enough pre-dawn glow for me to see nothing unusual in the backyard.

At the front door, I again raised up on my tiptoes to peer through the window. White, pupil-less eyes set in a snaggle-whiskered, ashen face stared back. Bearded face edited (2)

I didn’t shout or scream. I stumbled backwards, raced for my phone and the old baseball bat I kept under the bed. On the way back to the front door I noticed the cats were nowhere to be seen. Odd. They must be out on the screened in lanai again–their only real exposure to the outside and a typical refuge from unusual activity.

Again, I looked through the high door window. Nothing. No blank eyes. No ashen face. Deep breath.

I flipped on the front light and turned the deadbolt. After looking behind for the cats–still missing–I opened the door. Before stepping out, I looked down–two, huge muddy footprints were centered on the welcome mat. Avoiding that evidence, I stepped outside–a trail of muddy prints lead down the driveway to the right. But, they ended before the street in the middle of the concrete–no trace of mud anywhere else. Nothing in the grass. In the brightening light, I looked up and down Bayview Drive–no people, cars, bikes. No early morning rabbits or birds. Quiet. Too quiet?

Turning back towards the house…where were the footprints? Gone?

I hustled to the door and looked down at the worn, but now clean, welcome mat. Was I still asleep? Dreaming?

Closing the door and locking it behind me, I stood still–letting my eyes adjust to the dimness.

Meow. Meow. Meow.

My ears led my eyes to the kitchen. A trail of muddy paw prints ended at Chekov. Sitting on his haunches, next to an empty food dish, our scraggly, grey cat glared at me with blank, white eyes.

Meow. Meow. Meow.

#     #     #

 

SINKHOLE: A Speculative Fiction Short Story

•August 21, 2019 • Leave a Comment

My latest speculative fiction short story is now on Amazon. Available only for Kindle and Kindle apps. Start reading SINKHOLE today.

SINKHOLE SQUARE WITH BLURB

 
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